(The Center Square) – Seattle’s latest attempt to help small businesses involves offering up to $100,000 in grants for commercial improvements and opportunities to expand.
It’s called the Tenant Improvement Fund.
Seattle City officials and owners of the Simply Soulful restaurant announced its establishment Tuesday in front of the business in the Madison Valley neighborhood.
The $1.9 million in funds administered by the Seattle Office of Economic Development will be distributed to applicants to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
Through an application process, 20 to 30 small businesses may receive up to $100,000 for improvements to their businesses and promote moving to new spaces within Seattle, according to Preeti Shridhan of the OED.
“This program provides financial resources that fills a gap and allows for small businesses to make those improvements, move to a new space and most importantly, this program removes a barrier to long-term success,” Seattle City Councilmember Sara Nelson said at the press conference.
The $1.9 million the city is dedicating to small businesses comes from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund that was established last year by with Federal American Rescue Plan dollars. In total, the federal government sent $128.4 million in taxpayer funds to Seattle through the ARP to aid the city’s recovery from the pandemic.
As part of Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s efforts to fill empty storefronts, the Tenant Improvement Fund will encourage small businesses in Seattle to expand and open up in areas where the pandemic has forced previous businesses to shut down.
Along with the goal of filling empty storefronts, the city expects the funds to help support wealth generation for business owners, give businesses access to permitting services and consultant resources for assistance with project needs such as space planning, as well as assistance with conversations with landlords and selecting a general contractor, according to the City of Seattle.
Businesses in Seattle and throughout Washington have struggled to recover from the pandemic. According to the Washington Hospitality Association, thousands of restaurants in the state alone have gone out of business during the pandemic.
“In Washington, the pandemic caused the closure of thousands of restaurants, and we know more could close if they don’t get the support they need,” Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association said in a statement last month.
In a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the association found that the net percent of U.S. business owners who expect real sales to improve decreased to a net negative of 28%, which the NFIB sees as a severe decline from the previous survey in May.